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often in the rhyme, spoils every attempt at introducing sentiment into the piece. The foregoing song pleases myself; I think it is in my happiest manner; you will see at first glance that it suits the air. The subject of the song is one of the most interesting passages of my youthful days; and, I own that I should be much flattered to see the verses set to an air, which would insure celebrity. Perhaps, after all, 'tis the still glowing prejudice of my heart, that throws a borrowed lustre over the merits of the composition.
I have partly taken your idea of Auld Rob Morris. I have adopted the two first verses, and am going on with the song on a new plan, which promises pretty well. I take up one or another, just as the bee of the moment buzzes in my bonnet-lug ; and do you, sans ceremonie, make what use you chuse of the productions. Adieu ! &c.
MR. THOMSON TO MR. BURNS.
Edinburgh, Nov. 1792. Dear Sir,
I WAS just going to write to you, that on meeting with your Nanie, i had fallen violently in love with her. I thank you, therefore, for sending the charming rustic to me, in the dress you wish her to appear before the public. She does you great credit, and will soon be admitted into the best company.
I regret that your song for the Lea-rig is so short; the air is easy, soon sung, and very pleasing: so that, if the singer stops at the end of two stanzas, it is a pleasure lost, ere it is well possessed.
Although a dash of our native tongue and manners is doubtless peculiarly congenial and appropriate to our melodies, yet I shall be able to present a considerable number of the very Flowers of English Song, well adapted to those melodies, which in England at least will be the means of recommending them to still greater attention than they have procured there. But you will observe, my plan is, that every air shall in the first place have verses wholly by Scottish poets; and that those of English writers shall follow as additional songs, for the choice of the singer.
What you say of the Ewe-bughts is just ; I admire it, and never meant to supplant it. All I requested was, that you would try your hand on some of the inferior stanzas, which are apparently no part of the original song ; but this I do not urge, because the song is of sufficient length, though those inferior stanzas be omitted, as they will be by thesinger of taste. You must not think I expect all the songs to be of superlative merit; that were an unreasonable expectation. I am sensible that no poet can sit down doggedly to pen verses, and succeed well at all times.
I am highly pleased with your humorous and amorous rhapsody on Bonie Leslie : it is a thousand times better than the Collier's Lassie. “ The deil he “ cou'd na skaithe thee,” &c. is an eccentric and happy thought. Do you not think, however, that the names of such old heroes as Alexander, sound rather queer, unless in pompous or mere burlesque verse? Instead of the line, “ And never made a
nither,” I would humbly suggest, “And ne'er made “ sic anither;" and I would fain have
substitute some other line for “ Return to Caledonie,” in the last verse, because I think this alteration of the orthography, and of the sound of Caledonia, disfigures the word, and renders it Hudibrastic,
Of the other song. My wife's a winsome wee thing, I think the first eight lines very good : but I do not admire the other eight, because four of them are a bare repetition of the first verses. I have been trying to spin a stanza, but could make nothing better than the following: do you'mend it, or, as Yorick did with the love-letter, whip it up in your own way.
O leeze me on my wee thing,
Tho' warld's care we share o't,
You perceive my dear Sir, I avail myself of the liberty, which you condescend to allow me, by speaking freely what I think. Be assured, it is not my disposition to pick out the faults of any poem or picture I see: my first and chief object is to discover and be delighted with the beauties of the piece. If I sit down to examine critically, and at leisure, what perhaps you have written in haste, I may happen to observe careless lines, the re-perusal of which might lead
you to improve them. The wren will often see what has been overlooked by the eagle,
I remain yours faithfully, &c.
P. S. Your verses upon Highland Mary, are just come to hand: they breathe the genuine spirit of poetry, and like the music will last for ever. Such verses united to such an air, with the delicate harmony of Pleyel superadded, might form a treat worthy of being presented to Apollo himself. I have heard the sad story of your Mary: you always seem inspired when you write of her.
MR. BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
Dumfries, 1st Dec. 1792.
YOUR alterations of my Nanie O are perfectly right. So are those of My wife's a wanton wee thing. Your alteration of the second stanza is a positive improvement. Now, my dear Sir, with the freedom which characterises our correspondence, I must not, cannot alter Bonie Leslie. You are right the word “ Alexander” makes the line a little uncouth, but I think the thought is pretty. Of Alexander, beyond all other heroes, it may be said in the sublime language of scripture, that “ he went “ forth conquering and to conquer.”